Downtown Art

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June 27, 2005 // UPDATED 1:55 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Anna Pratt
Anna Pratt

Upon closer inspection

An art show from painter Steve Smith and sculptor Willie K. Bullion at One on One Bicycle Shop hangs above and between the store's bikes, blending not quite seamlessly with the merchandise, which, of course, is a plus for the artists.

It also fits in with the spirit of the bike shop - steering a kind of visual journey. Some of the pieces are so enticing (for better or for worse), that they beckon contemplation even while concentrated bike customers carefully consider the pros and cons of certain Bianchi bike models, among others (conveniently located near the art).

Whether you appreciate the pieces or not, they're thought-provoking either way. Owner Gene Oberpriller said that this is definitely the shop's most controversial show yet. Oberpriller said that it's also ushered in new faces and friends of friends - making the gallery portion of the shop a destination.

That's probably because some of Smith's innocent-looking paintings are pretty risqu. Smith renews antique flea market finds with figures he paints directly onto the surface. The irony is that Smith seizes romanticized landscapes, cityscapes and portraits, and decorates them with macabre details.

Not all of them are disturbing, but most of them relay pathology or violence. For example, some of his characters seem to have caught a deadly disease or maybe a contagious virus.

Other add-ins speaks directly to the earlier layer, such as in one painting of a man clad in a plaid shirt and jeans, posed in the foreground of an idyllic landscape. He fits right in with the recycled painting except for his sickly expression that contrasts with the sunny background.

It could be a statement about disfigured Americana, as the balding man seems to wriggle with pain. He has scars, dark circles around his eyes and other battle wounds. Not to mention a lumpy beer belly, tame compared to others wherein individuals publicly urinate or masturbate.

Another work is rife with sexual innuendo as it shows a woman wearing revealing clothes. She carelessly tosses beer bottles into a nearby stream. Still, in others, figures are impaled or battered, with even hints of blood splattered about. A gothic mummy-like superhero says, "Will save the day for food."

While some may consider it sacrilegious to paint on top of older paintings - like the one of an iconic gray-haired man bowing his head in prayer with folded hands - with an anecdote about the day's frustrations scribed alongside (which sold for $5 "As Is" to Oberpriller).

Perhaps Smith would argue that he's revitalizing these discarded works.

I'd venture even further to say that Smith not only shakes up the quaint settings a bit, he extends the meaning of these originals (and cardboard reproductions). Smith is just one of many soothsaying artists reusing artistic debris from previous eras to offer a grim view of the future. Artists such as Smith aren't advocating the demise of what they picture. In fact, they're trying to say something more along the lines of "will save the day for food."

• M-F 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Sa 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun by appt. only. One on One Bicycle Shop, 117 Washington Ave. N. Free. 371-9565, www.oneononebike.com.